NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry & Blog Administrator

Thursday, May 6, 2021

FIAT Meetings are resuming!

The FIAT: Faith In Action Today prayer group meetings will resume beginning on Wednesday, 5/19!  Meetings are now held out in the church's Friendship Lanai where social distancing will be observed. Interested individuals are required to wear face coverings and encouraged to bring a personal supply of hand sanitizer.

FIAT is an affiliated ministry to Guadalupe House, that was inspired by and based loosely on, the Divine Will private revelations received by the Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta.  For more information about FIAT, including meeting dates, click here.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Saint of the Month - May 2021: Saint Margaret of Citta-di-Castello

“For my father and my mother have left me: but the Lord hath taken me up.”

~ Psalm 26:10

St. Margaret of Citta-di-Castello
Patroness of the Unwanted ~ Feast: April 13th

"It's about time." Those were my exact words immediately after I learned from the internet that this holy woman was declared a Saint this past April 24, 2021.  Her name is Margaret of Citta-di-Castello - or Margaret of Metola, as she's also known - and I was introduced to her life over 25 years ago back when she was designated a Blessed. Since then, I've admired her and was convinced she was indeed a Saint... and since my ministry was also gifted by a priest with an authenticated bone-relic from her body, I prayed regularly for a favorable conclusion to her Sainthood Cause; patiently hoping, like many of her devotees, for her canonization.  It finally happened 700 years after she died.

Fairly well-known in pro-life circles, St. Margaret's life is still generally unfamiliar to the rest of the world.  She was born sometime in 1287 to a noble family in Metola near Perugia, Italy.  Her birth was not joyously celebrated nor was there thanksgiving from her parents - rather, little Margaret elicited disappoint, if not disgust.  You see - upon seeing her for the first time, it was apparent the child was not normal, at least from her parent's point of view.  The baby was born with a whole slew of physical anomalies: she was a dwarf; had a severely curved spine; had one leg shorter than the other; and lastly, she was also blind.  If that weren't enough misfortune, she was described as homely in appearance by biographers.

Embarrassed by her appearance, Margaret's smug parents decided to hide her from the rest of the world, which they successfully did in their castle until the child was age 6, when she was nearly discovered by a family guest.  The situation prompted her parents to transfer their daughter to a remote chapel in the woods where she was walled up in a small, attached room.  A window into the church allowed the priest to feed Margaret, as well as, to instruct her on various truths of the Catholic Faith. When she was old enough and sufficiently prepared, the chaplain regularly gave her the Eucharist so it's not surprising she developed a highly pious character.

In 1305, civil unrest in the vicinity of the chapel necessitated another move for Margaret so she was brought back to the palace and locked in a cell for another two years.  She was only granted freedom when reports of miraculous cures occurring at the tomb of a deceased Franciscan holy man - Bl. Giacomo of Citta-di-Castello, d. 1292 - reached her parent's ears.  They secretly took Margaret to his shrine and, when no change occurred in her appearance, the couple did the unthinkable - they simply left without telling her.  Poor Margaret was abandoned in a strange town; alone, amongst strange people... and without any resources.

An old sketch I made of St. Margaret back in 2007, depicting her with
her miraculous heart.  Read on to learn more...

Fortunately for Margaret, some of the local homeless had pity on her and took her under their wing, supporting her and teaching her the lay of their city so she could find her way around.  For a while she begged, too, but as certain townsfolk came to know and love the sweet-natured maiden, they took turns housing her.  In return, Margaret repaid their kindness by doing chores for them such as schooling and caring for their children, knitting and mending clothes, and conducting errands.  She also frequented the church for fervent prayer, and hobbled about in the streets carrying out charity work amongst the poor, with whom she had a special affinity.

What makes this Saint's life so inspiring is the manner in which she dealt with her multiple disabilities and many hardships.  One would reasonably understand if she turned out to be a resentful and bitter human being, but instead, she was quite the opposite - testimonies after her death consistently relate how Margaret never complained about her lot in life; never expressed self-pity; and never spoke ill of her parents or anyone else, as a matter of fact.  Rather, she radiated innocence and simplicity; was conscientious in the practice of the Faith; ever kind and generous to all; infectiously joyful; was a wise counselor; and was readily forgiving to her offenders to the extent of even defending her cruel parents against anyone who rightfully spoke ill of them.  Added to her innate goodness were the voluntary mortifications she practiced - rigorous fasting, the wearing of a hair-shirt, and the routine use of the discipline.

Except for a 2-year stint in a convent that didn't end well, through no fault of her own, Margaret remained a lay-apostle for the duration of her life.  She did, however, in 1311, become a Third Order Dominican and was clothed in their black and white habit. Her continued spiritual fervor, service to others, and miracles endeared her to the citizens of Citta-di-Castello, who revered her as their resident living Saint.

An early, stylized depiction of the Saint.  Note her heart with a lily for purity sprouting from it.

Speaking of miracles, Margaret's other claim to fame was her wonder-working abilities. Through the marvelous grace of God, this Saint performed many miracles during and after her lifetime.  Among the most commonly cited in her biographies are the following mystical gifts:

+ Healing - she cured the sick with the touch of her hand.  One example told how a married friend of hers developed a tumor in one of her eyes that was causing blindness.  After begging the Saint's help, for the sake of the afflicted woman's family, Margaret touched the eye and it was cured instantly!

+ Ecstasies & Levitation - Margaret was often seen exercising these charisms jointly.  On one specific occasion, while on a visit to the local prison to feed and minister to convicts, a certain Alonzo rudely rejected her gifts.  The little mystic responded by quietly kneeling in prayer and, as everyone watched in awe, she slowly floated several feet into the air.  If that weren't amazing enough, Margaret's features were also transfigured by a heavenly light and an angelic beauty!  The miracle lasted for several minutes, after which she descended to the floor and was restored to normal appearance... but more importantly, Alonzo was immediately converted!

+ Miracle Fire Fighter - on another occasion, when she was given permanent lodging at the home of a well-off benefactor - Lady Gregoria Venturino - the ground floor of the house caught fire.  The Saint was praying in her attic room at the time and Gregoria frantically shouted for her to quickly come down.  When Margaret appeared at the top of the stairs, all she did was toss her cloak down, directing her friend to throw it into the flames. She then calmly returned to her cell and Gregoria did as she was told.  The fire was inexplicably extinguished the moment the cloak came into contact with it!

+ Celestial Apparitions - although blind since birth, Margaret was privileged to see divine mysteries and personages that most human eyes are not privy to.  For example, at the moment of consecration during Mass, she sometimes "saw" Christ resplendent on the altar in place of the Host.

+ Prophecy - on more than one occasion, the Saint demonstrated the ability to foresee future events.  One example was when she revealed to a lady-friend and the woman's daughter that both would one day wear the Dominican habit, like herself.  At first the women laughed it off, but after the mother was unexpectedly widowed, they joined the Dominican Tertiaries together, thus fulfilling Margaret's prediction.

When she died on April 13, 1320, at around age 33, Margaret's funeral was attended by crowds of admirers.  When the clergy attempted to remove her corpse to the cemetery for burial, a heated confrontation broke out between them and the people, who insisted Margaret be interred in the church.  As the arguing was on the verge of escalating into a riot, shouts of "Miracle! Miracle!" sounded in the air, which silenced all.

In the midst of the chaos, a couple with a crippled daughter had made their way to Margaret's open casket to beseech her help for their child.  To everyone's amazement, the dead woman's left arm lifted and settled on the disabled girl, who was instantly cured.  It was one of the earliest post mortem healings - one of many - attributed to the Saint, and it settled the argument as to where she would be buried.  Margaret was laid to rest in the church.

The body of St. Margaret, as venerated in the Church of St. Domenic, Citta-di-Castello.

In June 1558, Margaret's coffin was opened after it was discovered to be badly disintegrated during its translation to a worthier tomb; the Saint's body was found perfectly incorrupt, which sparked renewed interest and devotion to her.  She was eventually Beatified on October 19, 1609 and... to the joy and surprise of her many devotees, unexpectedly declared a Saint by Pope Francis in April 2021!  For obvious reasons St. Margaret of Citta-di-Castello is popularly acclaimed as the Patron Saint of the Unwanted Unborn and the Patroness of the Disabled.

I'll end this post with one last marvel recounted of this Saint.  Shortly after her death, Margaret's heart was extracted and opened, where upon three "pearls" were discovered within its cavity (incidentally, her Italian name "Margherita" means "pearl").  More astoundingly, the pearls were individually etched with holy images of the Saint's favorite devotions: the Christ Child, the Holy Virgin, and St. Joseph.  The discovery of these mysterious pearls brought clarity to somewhat cryptic words Margaret often uttered in life: "If you only knew what I had in my heart!"

St. Margaret of Citta-di-Castello, pray for us!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Monthly Message from the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: April 25th, 2021

  "Dear children!  Today I am calling you to witness your faith in the colors of spring.  May this be a faith of hope and courage.  May your faith, little children, not waver in any situation, not even in this time of trial.  Go courageously with the risen Christ towards Heaven, which is your goal.  I am accompanying you on this way of holiness and am placing all of you in my Immaculate Heart.  Thank you for having responded to my call."

Monday, April 5, 2021

Another Round of "Faces of Holiness"...

I find this science very, very interesting - forensic facial reconstruction.  It's a field of science that aims to reconstruct the probable faces of the deceased based on standard reference points on their skulls.  More so, I get excited when the face being redone is a pre‐photography era SAINT; it's as though we now get to look at a photo of the individual rather than just a holy card based on someone's imagination.

I've posted on this topic several times before, but I accidentally came across a recent saintly facial reconstruction and, upon digging around, I actually discovered quite a few others.  In fact, it seems to be a trend for Catholic shrines/organizations to have their respective Saints' faces reconstructed, based on preserved skull-relics... and I like it!  So here we go with another round of "faces of holiness"...

+ +  St. John Nepomucene  + +

St. John's reconstructed face vs. a popular monument of the Saint in the Czech Republic 

This Saint was a priest in the court of King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia.  According to most accounts, he was the queen's personal confessor and, when the king suspected her of infidelity, he pressed the priest for personal details from her frequent confessions to him.  As one would expect of a devout priest, John refused and remained steadfast despite threats made against him by Wenceslaus.

The standoff between Saint and monarch culminated on March 20, 1393, when the king ordered the priest beaten then executed when he still persisted on remaining silent - John was thrown from the Charles Bridge, in city of Prague, into the frigid Vltava River and drowned as a result.

Deemed a Martyr, John Nepomucene was canonized in 1729 and is popularly considered the "Martyr of the Seal of the Confessional" and a Patron Saint of Bohemia, Czech Republic.  Interestingly, according to a tradition, his tongue was discovered preserved from corruption during a ritual exhumation in 1715, prior to his beatification.

+ +  Bl. Luca Belludi  + +

Bl. Luca's reconstructed face vs. an early depiction of him (a close likeness?)

This Blessed was an Italian friar, who was accepted into the Franciscan Order by St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), himself.  He was an assistant and close friend to St. Anthony of Padua (d. 1231), and died in Padua in 1286.  Like his illustrious friend, Bl. Luca was also a holy man and skilled preacher, and the Church recognized his sanctity through beatification in 1927.  His relics remain enshrined in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua.

+ +  St. Magnus Erlendsson  + +

St. Magnus' face and the relic of his skull used in the reconstruction process

This obscure Saint was a Norseman; the Earl of Orkney in Norway.  Baptized Catholic, according to a certain biography, he was exceptionally pious and highly diligent in the practice of the Faith. Because of his gentle personality and his very open expression of Christian principles, Magnus was mocked by other pagan Viking rulers... but the people he ruled over benefited from his kindness.

Reluctantly caught up in the political intrigue and power struggles of his time and place, Magnus was betrayed and put to death by order of a rival Earl, via an brutal axe blow to the head, as evidenced by his skull.  Before dying he pardoned the executioner and his enemies, and prayed for them.

The spot where St. Magnus was killed and buried was rocky and barren ground, which reportedly grew over with lush green grass soon after his death.  He was considered a Martyr and many healings were subsequently reported at his grave, prompting his canonization in 1136.

+ +  The Jesuit Martyrs of Kosice  + +

These Jesuit clergymen (their individual names are listed above) were heroically martyred by Calvinist Protestants.  All three voluntarily ministered to the Catholic minority in Kosice, which was a Calvinist stronghold during their day.  In 1619, at a time of rising anti-Catholic sentiments, they were arrested and beaten with the intent of having them apostasize, which the trio refused to do despite torture.

As a result of their steadfastness, the priests were beheaded and their bodies thrown into a ditch where they lay for 6 months.  A sympathetic countess claimed their remains and provided the Martyrs with a Christian burial; their tomb immediately became a beacon of faith for the persecuted Catholics of Kosice.  The Church eventually canonized them as a group in 1995.

+ +  St. Peter of Verona  + +

St. Peter's reconstructed face vs. an early depiction of him

This Dominican Saint was a celebrated preacher, as well as a reputable wonder-worker.  He preached against heretical sects in central and northern Italy - particularly against the Cathars - bringing many back into the Church.

Infuriated by his success, Catharist leaders in Milan hired a pair of assassins to kill Peter, which took place on April 6, 1252, while the Saint made his way to their city.  The murderer, Carlino of Balsamo, struck him in the head with an axe.

While he lay dying, St. Peter used his blood to scrawl his final profession of faith on the ground beside him: I believe in God... (from the beginning of the Apostles Creed).  His body was discovered and transferred to Milan, where it was met with immediate veneration and became a channel for miraculous cures.  Peter was so highly regarded, he was declared a Saint in March 1253, less than a year after his death.

As an uplifting postscript to this somber story, Carlino - the Saint's murderer - later repented of his crime and sincerely converted.  He joined the Dominicans in Forli and lived such a holy life he is now locally honored as Blessed Carlino of Balsamo.

+ +  St. Valentine  + +

St. Valentine's face and the relic of his skull used in the reconstruction process

This Saint's Feast is observed every year by millions, worldwide, on February 14th, but really ‐ how many people out there actually know about his life history and spiritual significance?

St. Valentine was a priest or bishop who ministered in ancient Rome; he was captured during a time of intense Christian persecution in the early years of the Church.  Refusing to offer sacrifices to pagan gods and betray Christ, he was beheaded in 269 AD.

According to one popular account, the Saint, among many other good works, secretly united Christian soldiers and their brides in holy matrimony, despite the Roman Emperor's edict forbidding active soldiers to marry.  It's a scenario that likely lead to Valentine being romantically branded as the Patron Saint of Lovers.

+ +  St. Zdislava Berka  + +

St. Zdislava's reconstructed face vs. an early depiction of her

A noblewoman of Czech descent, this Saint was highly pious as a child.  She actually attempted to run away from home at age 7 to become a hermit...  failed...  and was forced by her parents to marry a nobleman at 15-years-old.

Zdislava's husband turned out to be a brute, but through her patience and meekness, she gained his tacit approval to perform acts of charity and to establish two convents; all while dealing with her husband and raising their children.  Furthermore, her sanctity merited ecstasies and visions, and she reportedly performed miracles in her lifetime.

St. Zdislava Berka died in 1252 but wasn't canonized until 1995 - she's considered a Patron Saint of the Czech Republic, along with St. John Nepomucene.

... and finally - the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Obviously, this last image is not a true forensic facial reconstruction since Our Lady's body was assumed into Heaven, but the artist who created this beautiful and haunting piece - Julien Lasbleiz - based his representation of the Holy Virgin on the image of Christ, as imprinted on the Shroud of Turin.

Supposing the Holy Shroud is indeed the miraculous relic many purport it to be (I personally believe it is), then it really does capture the true face of Jesus... and since he only had one biological parent - Mary - it would be logical to assume that he closely resembled her.  So how genius is the artist in coming up with this notion and the unique rendering of our Blessed Mother?  Very clever.  I had to share it here after seeing it on several other websites because it really is an image worth contemplating.

The Lasbleiz painting above... and side-by-side with a painting
of Christ that was also based on the Holy Shroud.

To view this ministry's other posts on forensic "faces of holiness", click here.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Saint of the Month, April 2021: Maria Dominica Clara of the Holy Cross

The Servant of God
Maria Dominica Clara of the Holy Cross
A Victim Soul for the Priesthood

Mother Maria Dominica Clara Moes is a great spiritual figure who I'd bet most people don't know about, including Catholics, but I'd like to change that - at least in some small way through this blog.  Her biography is not just fascinating because of the rich mysticism this nun lived, but it's also quite edifying because she was a proven virtuous soul; exemplary enough for the Church to open an investigation into her life for possible sainthood.  So who was this hidden gem of a mystic, born Anna Moes in Bous, Luxembourg?

Anna came into this world on October 27, 1832.  Remarkably, immediately after her baptism on the day after her birth, she claims to have been gifted with the full use of her reason and could understand what was going on around her despite just being a baby.  Now this isn't really unique, at all, since there were a few other mystics who supposedly received this extremely rare grace, most notably the great visionary-stigmatic, Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (d. 1824), with whom Anna Moes' life shared a lot of similarities.  Both were destined to be victim souls, whose voluntary sufferings were offered to God to ward off dangers facing the Church.  In the latter's case, her apparent mission included praying and expiating for the sanctification of priests, and it entailed a lot of suffering.

One other spiritual favor Anna received in infancy was the ability to see and interact with her guardian angel, as well as other holy angels, on an almost continual basis.  As such, she developed a very strong devotion to these heavenly messengers.  Again, not a unique grace in the lives of prime-level mystics, as there were several in Church history who were closely bonded to their guardian angels (e.g. St. Lydwina of Scheidam, St. Frances of Rome, Gemma Galgani, etc.)... but this is how Anna described her personal experiences with angels to one of her confessors:

  "Love and veneration of the Holy Angels had already been placed in my heart since my childhood, but with growing in age, it reached an ever higher degree.  My devotion to them was continuous, because there are very few moments when I do not think or talk to them... How can I not love and venerate the Holy Angels who have done so much for me and continue to dedicate such tender love to me!"

The angel's influence on Anna was intimate and powerful - at just age 6 he showed his young protege a heart encircled with thorns, and prophesied this to her:

  "Fear not, dear daughter, the Divine Savior chose you to participate in a special way in the sufferings bestowed upon him by wicked men in his Holy Church, upon which great and continuous tribulations will ensue!  Hell will rise with all its might to the point where the children of the Church, themselves, rebel against it and pursue to the extreme... but the Lord of armies will crush them.  Go, my dear daughter - for all this, the Divine Savior seeks comfort and help in you.  He'll send you many great tribulations, but he'll never deny you his help.  It is his holy will that you offer all your sufferings for the intention for which he has chosen you.  His Sacred Heart will be your perpetual refuge..."

Anna's angel then led her to the foot of the altar in the local church where the girl pronounced a vow of virginity and voluntarily offered herself, wholeheartedly, to God, to which her guardian angel solemnly responded: "Now, my child, you have entered the school of suffering that you will not abandon until your soul is brought by the angels to the throne of God, to be crowned there by your Heavenly Bridegroom."  From that moment on, Anna was plagued with poor health but her mystical experiences escalated:

  • At age 9, she celebrated her First Holy Communion and received a revelation from God that it was his will for her to reestablish the Dominican Order in Luxembourg
  • In addition to seeing her guardian angel from her earliest childhood, she received visits from the Holy Mother of Christ who favored her with signal blessings, such as purity of soul and help against demonic assaults
  • In 1850, at the age of 18, she underwent the lofty grace of Mystical Marriage to Christ
  • Among her other charisms were Ecstasies, Visions, Mystical Communions from the hands of angels, visits from Purgatorial Souls... and the Stigmata, which appeared to bleed only on Fridays and, which Anna managed to successfully hide for a period of time

In 1861, at age 29, the Lord's commission to Anna concerning a Dominican monastery in Luxembourg was finally initiated by her and a few like-minded friends in the region of Limpertsberg.  It was a rocky start, made more difficult by the physical harassment of the devil against the foundress... but the small group persevered, and the establishment thrived and was eventually affiliated with the Dominican Order in 1884.  Anna, by then, was the elected Prioress and had taken the religious name of Maria Dominica Clara of the Holy Cross (referred to as "Mo. Dominica" from here on).

Despite her success in establishing the monastery, it wasn't the end of the mystic's trials - others followed.  Mo. Dominica, in her humility, had made an earnest effort to hide her supernatural gifts from the community, but the visible nature of the ecstasies and the Stigmata, simply made it impossible to do so indefinitely.  A few of the nuns, perhaps either through jealousy or misunderstanding, suspected the foundress of fanaticism, or worse yet - outright fraud - and even gossiped maliciously about her to the townspeople so the unusual occurrences in the monastery became common knowledge; skeptics took to publicly ridiculing Dominica, going so far as to obscenely parody her stigmata during a local festival.

When word reached the ecclesiastic authorities of the superior's alleged misdeeds, a lengthy investigation was launched into the matter.  Mo. Dominica was subjected to intense scrutiny, as well as commanded to document her remarkable experiences, to be reviewed by her investigators.  The nun obeyed, but the order pained her all the more because she loathed being considered as privileged in any way because of her extraordinary mysticism.  At the end of it all, the judgement pronounced was in her favor and Mo. Dominica was vindicated, which further boosts her credibility as a genuine instrument of God.

The grave of Mo. Dominica Clara in Limpertsberg.

In spite of being cleared of any wrong doing, the Prioress did not rest on her laurels.  She continued to lead her community with humility, practicality, and piety.  The wondrous manifestations continued but Dominica still tried to hide or dismiss them (e.g. except for a couple of trusted confidants, she forbade anyone from coming into her cell when the stigmata were active then personally washed the linens stained with blood from her wounds); insisting that her nuns not place their focus on the supernatural.  Instead, she advised them in this manner:

  "God demands solid virtue from us and will not have a Sister fix her heart upon a soul because it is visited by ecstasy...  To see a person receive Holy Communion in an ecstasy does not justify one in priding oneself upon it.  It is true and remains true that only genuine virtue makes a person holy...  One single humiliation counts more before God than ecstasies and miracles, were these ever so numerous."

After spending decades praying and sacrificing for the needs of the Church, especially for priests, the prodigious life of Maria Dominica Clara of the Holy Cross ended on February 24, 1895 - she was 62-years-old.  As of this writing, this author believes her Cause for Sainthood is still active... so let us pray together for this saintly Dominican's speedy Canonization.

Mother Maria Dominica Clara, pray for us!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Monthly Message of the Queen of Peace of Medjugorje: March 25th, 2021

The Monthly Message:
  “Dear children!  Also today I am with you to tell you: Little children, whoever prays does not fear the future and does not lose hope.  You are chosen to carry joy and peace, because you are mine.  I have come here with the name ‘Queen of Peace’ because the devil wants peacelessness and war, he wants to fill your heart with fear of the future - but the future is God’s.  That is why, be humble and pray, and surrender everything into the hands of the Most High Who created you.  Thank you for having responded to my call.”

A special message received by Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo during her annual apparition on March 18th, 2021:
  "Dear children, in a motherly way I am calling you to return to the joy and the truth of the Gospel, to return to the love of my Son - because He is waiting for you with open arms; that everything you do in life you do with my Son, with love; that it may be blessed for you; so that your spirituality may be internal, and not just external.  Only in that way will you be humble, generous, filled with love and joyful; and my motherly heart will rejoice with you.  Thank you."

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Saints & Relics Speaking Presentation, 3/21/2021: St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua

It's been a little over a year since this ministry conducted a speaking presentation. Due to this horrible pandemic, the couple of presentations I had scheduled in 2020 were understandably canceled. However, with the recent decline of new Covid-19 infections on Oahu, our mayor lessened restrictions... and I was again able to spotlight Saints during a presentation this morning for coordinators and participants of my parish's R.C.I.A. Program. It felt good; for a bit it seemed almost as though the world was back to normal again.  At least for me.

The five relics that were presented for veneration at today's presentation.

Of course, we all wore face coverings and members of the audience were required to sit several feet apart, except for individuals from the same household.  Plus our Makai Meeting Room is well-ventilated with vertical slots on the wall that allow for the fresh ocean breeze to blow through... so we were relatively safe from infection.  At the end, everything went smoothly and it appeared the presentation was well-received by the group.

I can always tell when certain individuals are particularly inspired and/or touched by the Saints because they'll linger near the makeshift altar of relics for an extended period to pray and pay their respects.  Several people lingered today.

One woman, who appeared visibly moved, even testified to me that she smelled the fragrance of roses during the talk (there were no flowers in the room), which is always a special affirmation that Our Lady and/or the Saints re invisibly with us.

The Saints I featured and whose holy relics I brought today were:

Bl. Bartolo Longo (a former satanic priest turned Rosary evangelist and philanthropist of Pompeii, Italy)

St. Bernadette Soubirous (the celebrated Marian visionary of Lourdes, France)

St. Joaquina Vedruna (a Spanish housewife, mother, widow, mystic, & founder of the Carmelite Sisters of Charity)

St. Maximilian Kolbe (a Polish Franciscan priest and "martyr of charity", who gave up his life at Auschwitz to save a family man slated for execution)

... and, lastly, this ministry's treasured relic of the Holy Virgin's veil was also presented for the edification of the participants.  After all, you can't have a talk about Saints and not include Mary,  the Queen of All Saints.

* * *  T E S T I M O N Y  * * *

"... thanks again for your presentation;
it was informative and humbling."

- Maggie

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Novena to St. Joseph: March 11th - 19th

I cordially invite readers to spiritually join this ministry in honoring and celebrating St. Joseph through a novena.  This novena will be prayed from March 11th to March 19th, the Feast Day of St. Joseph.  All those participating and their respective prayer petitions will be commended to St. Joseph in the special presence of his relic in this ministry's custody.  So let's pray together - for each other - for the next 9 days.

Blessings and best wishes to all participants - St. Joseph, pray for us!

Dear St. Joseph, illustrious foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ; protector of His Mystical Body, the Church - I entrust myself, this day, to your fatherly care.  As you lovingly did for Jesus and your beloved spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary, watch over me and assist me with my daily needs... and through the intercession of your most Chaste Heart, obtain for me from your Divine Son, this favor I humbly ask of you:

[mention or describe your petition]

St. Joseph, benevolent and efficacious advocate, 
pray for us who have recourse to you.  Amen.

[Add an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be in honor of St. Joseph]

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Saint of the Month - March 2021: Francesca del Serrone

The Servant of God
Francesca del Serrone
Triumphant Over Tragedy

Featured this month is a laywoman whose life is an appropriate Lenten reflection. She was a mystic and "victim soul", who suffered voluntarily on behalf of sinners, in profound union with Jesus Crucified, her Divine Spouse. Born on July 22, 1557, in the village of Serrone, Italy, her name was Francesca Trigli... and from an early age she was no stranger to suffering, which was a hallmark of her incredible, but little-known life.  The inspirational manner in which she consistently chose to respond to her many trials is why this author personally believes she's sainthood-worthy.

At the tender age of just 9-years-old, our Servant of God's father suddenly died and, not long after, her mother passed away, too, through an apparent suicide. The little orphan was then shuffled between the households of an older brother (Antonio), a sister (Ottavia), and a maternal uncle.  Sadly, rather than being lovingly cared for, Francesca was considered a burden by her family, as well as, viewed as an imbecile because she stuttered.  Thus, she was often misjudged and mistreated not just by her relatives but also by their respective communities.

Antonio, in particular, was brutal - he not only neglected her, but often beat her too.  In fact, he once struck Francesca so hard in the face, he knocked out a few of his sister's teeth in the process. Ottavia and the uncle didn't fare much better, as they also failed to adequately care for her and blamed her for every little thing that went wrong in their homes.

On her part, the child Francesca displayed what can only be described as supernatural patience and docility in the face of the abuse she endured.  She had somehow learned about the life of St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) and took the Saint as a patroness and role model.  When not burdened by chores, she frequented the local church and spent her spare time in prayer... and what little she managed to have for herself, she shared as alms for the poor.  Additionally, in imitation of her patroness, she took to fasting strictly, as well as wearing a cilice (spiked metal belt) under her clothing; all, in an effort to be closely conformed to Christ Crucified:

Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

~ Words of Jesus, Matthew 16:24

Perhaps as a way of coping with the loss of her earthly mother, Francesca also developed a deep attachment to the Blessed Virgin who responded to the child's devotion by actually appearing to her on several occasions.  These heavenly visits provided much-needed consolation and moral support for the poor girl... and it was through Our Lady's intercession the youngster was instantly able to read and write, and the Holy Mother even taught her how to skillfully embroider in order to earn her keep.

Another comfort to Francesca was the charity and guidance of her confessors, who saw the maiden for the chosen soul that she truly was, despite the adverse opinion of others.  It was through the expert direction of these few worthy priests that she became proficient in meditating on the Passion of Christ and in the practice of virtue. They also wisely managed her self-mortifications to protect her from severely injuring herself... and worse yet - from the danger of pride!

Francesca's advancement in sanctity must have been rapid and lofty, because by age 14, she was marked with the Sacred Stigmata in the form of a permanent wound in her side, that represented the Lord's chest-wound.  This mysterious wound bled heavily each Friday when she was said to regularly undergo the full sufferings of Jesus' crucifixion.

A small grove of olive trees in San Severino Marche where
Francesca often went to pray.

Not surprisingly, talk of Francesca's spiritual gifts soon began circulating in her village and peoples' hostility towards her generally dissipated.  To her annoyance, she became famous as a local "holy woman", and the Faithful came to her for guidance and prayer.  She sought admittance in cloistered convents but was repeatedly denied either because of her poor health or due to misunderstandings over her spiritual experiences, such as the weekly Passion ecstasies and physical attacks from the devil.

During a pilgrimage to Rome in the Jubilee Year of 1575, Francesca was introduced to the mystic-priest - St. Philip Neri (d. 1595) - to whom she wanted to confess and seek advice concerning her vocation.  The Saint, having already heard of her pious reputation, decided to test her humility by first rudely dismissing her.  When she persisted in meeting him, he loudly called her a fraud and a hypocrite to which Francesca responded with her habitual calm and silence.  Her meek demeanor had the effect of favorably impressing St. Philip, who then confessed and counseled her.

Having failed to enter a convent, the Servant of God applied with the Franciscans as a Tertiary and was clothed in their habit on February 22, 1579. By that time she was living in the neighboring town of San Severino Marche, where she continued to work, suffer, and publicly minister to people of all classes; she expressed special care towards orphans, having been one herself.

Francesca del Serrone's holy death occurred on April 7, 1601 - the date she correctly predicted she would die on.  Crowds attended her funeral and many clamored to obtain whatever they could of her habit as relics.  The demand to see her one final time was so great her burial was postponed and her body had to be locked in the sacristy to keep it safe from overzealous admirers.  Evidently, she was so esteemed, Francesca's dying wish to be buried in the Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Lumi - a revered Marian painting that she loved - was honored... and there, her body remains to this day.

The miracle-working image of the Madonna 
dei Lumi,
as venerated in San Severino Marche.

On a final note, it needs to be mentioned that by the time of her death at age 43, Francesca had been living solely on the Eucharist for seven years.  Thus, this places her among the ranks of those rare mystics of the Church, who confirmed the true presence of Christ in the consecrated Host through the sublime grace of subsisting only on the Bread of Heaven, in lieu of earthly food and drink.

'not sure why she's not a Saint yet, or at least a Blessed, but please join this ministry in praying for her speedy Canonization.  Francesca del Serrone, pray for us!

A relic of a cilice reputed to have been used by
Francesca del Serrone (center).

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Sojourn in the Desert

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was
led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days
he was tempted by the devil.  He ate nothing during
those days, and at the end of them he was hungry."

‐ Matthew 4:1-2

The Lenten Season is always an intense and meaningful time for me and I think it's the reason why I had another vivid dream, which haunted me for several days.  It happened last week but I only recently decided to put it down on paper because of how impressed I was by it.  The drawing below, which I call "Sojourn in the Desert", is the end result.

So in my dream I found myself immersed in a desert.  It was night time but the light of the moon was unusually bright and I could clearly see the rocky landscape (it reminded of the Grand Canyon). Wandering around for a bit I came upon a wide ravine and an amazing sight...

There, ahead of me, was a large cat.  It was definitely a lion but with a weird-looking mane, which to me, looked too short. Behind the animal was a man leaning against a few boulders and I sensed almost immediately it was our Lord... and he looked haggard.

Poor Jesus - he was fast asleep and looking so lean; I heard him lightly snoring, too!  I was saddened because I could see that he was obviously weak and exhausted; worn out.  On his head, covering his brow, was a cloak that flowed down and wrapped tightly around his body so it must've been chilly although I couldn't feel the cold.  At that very moment, seeing Christ this way gave me a solid visual of how human he truly was; how, despite being Divine, he didn't exempt himself from any of the physical weaknesses and discomforts the rest of us mortals are subjected to: hunger, fatigue, cold, snoring, etc.  It was also somehow endearing.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot
sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all
points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

... but what made this dream especially intriguing for me was not just the imagery of the Lord fasting in the desert, which I'm already familiar with... rather, it was the lion.  I know Jesus is referred to as the "Lion of Judah" because of Revelation 5:5 and Mark 1:12-13 mentions him as being "among wild beasts" in the wilderness... but I've never read or heard anything specific - anywhere - about an actual lion keeping him close company in the desert.  Where in the maze of my brain did that come from?  What was it supposed to symbolize, if anything?

Furthermore, although the lion looked quite formidable, it showed no signs of aggression.  Instead, it just lay quietly beside Jesus - like an oversized pet kitty - in direct physical contact with his legs.  Based on my observations, I speculate that the lion was really keeping Christ warm, as well as, watching over him as he slept.  After thinking about it over and over, it kinda made sense, considering all the potential dangers lurking in the wilderness: venomous scorpions and snakes; bandits; and even other lions.  A lion would make for an ideal guard animal in Jesus' situation.

I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety,
for the Lord was watching over me.

– Psalm 3:5

Incidentally, I did online research, afterwards, about lions in the Middle East and discovered there was a species of big cat - the Asiatic Lion - that is still found there... and guess what?  Male Asiatic Lions have a physical trait that distinguishes them from their African counterparts - shorter manes... like Jesus' furry bodyguard in the desert!  Now that's what I call uncanny.

The Asiatic Lion - note its short, sparse-looking mane compared to the
African Lion (inset), which is a more familiar image of the big cat.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Light of Lourdes

The oddest things can inadvertently get captured on live webcams; sometimes things that don't have an easy explanation. The amazing photos on this particular blog may just be an example of this phenomena. I did not take the pics myself, but a brother-in-Christ did, and he shared them with me to get my opinion on them.  I truly believe they're a genuine sign and, because the pics and the backstory are so inspiring, I felt the need to share them.

So just a bit of background concerning these photos - the man who took them ("Albert") is a personal friend who frequents Mass; is a strong devotee of the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael the Archangel; and a daily Rosary / Divine Mercy Chaplet prayer warrior. I recently introduced him to the Lourdes Shrine's live webcam - accessible in YouTube - and he's taken to doing his daily round of prayers every morning, while viewing the grotto of Our Lady's apparitions.

About a week ago, while praying the Rosary, Albert was surprised to witness the sudden and unexpected appearance of golden orbs of light "swirling" around in front of the statue in the upper niche of the Sacred Grotto (the exact spot where the Holy Virgin stood in her 18 appearances to St. Bernadette). He counted three large globes, which he said intermittently faded and reappeared throughout his prayer... and moved about too!  Below is a cellphone photo Albert snapped of his TV screen.  It's impressive and beautiful... and the story doesn't end there.

Two large golden orbs are captured in this photo.  Compare this pic to the last image at the very bottom to see how truly unusual this is.

A few days after... again, while praying the Rosary, Albert saw another manifestation of light, which was more astounding than the first incident. According to the man, he was on the 5th Luminous Mystery, meditating on the Institution of the Eucharist, when he saw the grotto's crucifix begin to "sparkle" brightly before radiating streams of light down upon the altar... and significantly, the lights were reddish and bluish - the colors of Divine Mercy!  If that weren't enough, orbs of light again appeared and moved around in front of Our Lady's statue.  The entire manifestation lasted until the end of the Rosary and, fortunately for us, Albert had the presence of mind to take more pics, which he texted to me soon after - see them below.  Again, they're clear and beautiful!

Light can be seen in these photos emanating from the crucifix.

In these close‐up shots, the red and bluish lights are clearer.

In the photos below, orbs of light are also captured as they descend
to the hallowed niche where Our Lady once stood.

I frequently view the same Lourdes livecam at different times of the day and I've never seen anything like this before, nor any sort of solar lens flare on the camera, so I know the pics are not due to sunlight... and how appropriate is the light - representing the Precious Blood and Water - streaming from the crucifix to the altar at exactly the same moment Albert was contemplating the Lord's gift to us of his Body and Blood in the Eucharist?

I'm convinced these events are a sign from Jesus and Mary to Albert; special affirmation he's on a good spiritual path and should continue walking it.  Plus, Lourdes is a place well-known for miracles so why couldn't this be possible?  I'm glad Albert shared his experiences because not only is it extraordinary, but there's an underlying message in the pics for all of us, too, especially the illuminated crucifix photos.  As I like to say at times: pictures are sometimes worth a thousand words.

A screenshot of what the Holy Grotto usually looks like on the live
webcam (that's a priest in the grotto entrance, not Our Lady).

... and I almost forgot to mention one final and  important detail - Albert also told me that when the crucifix began streaming light, he touched its image on the television and immediately felt a mild "shock" flow into his hand then throughout his entire body, which left him elated with JOY.  He was still very excited when he later described it to me over a phone call - he said it felt as though Jesus had "moved" through him.  Amen.

For those reading who'd like to access the Lourdes Shrine webcam,
you can do so by clicking here.

* * *  U P D A T E , 3 / 7 / 2 0 2 1 * * *

I have an exciting update to this post.  On the night of 3/6/2021, I went to sleep leaving my smart TV on with the Lourdes live webcam open on YouTube.  At around 2:00am the following morning (3/7), I found myself suddenly awakened and my attention was drawn to the brightness of the television screen - to the familiar scene of the Holy Grotto.

Almost immediately, I was startled to see luminous orbs of various colors begin appearing in the live webcam footage.  At first the orbs were still and flickering... but then they started to rapidly move about in front of the upper niche; a veritable "dance" of lights(!), as seen in the short video clip below.  I was excited, to say the least, and I couldn't help but think of Albert while repeatedly asking myself, "Is this what Albert saw?"

I studied the lights closely to see if they were actually insects (moths) near the camera lense but they clearly aren't.. and they certainly didn't look like lense flare by the way they flickered and moved about, while the camera view remained fixed.  Neither was there anything on my side that was reflecting onto the screen.  The whole phenomenon lasted about 3 minutes, which gave me time to film using my cellphone.  Oddly, after I ended the recording, the orbs also stopped moving before fading away. 

I don't know what I saw this morning... and I'm still bewildered by it all... but whatever those "dancing lights" were - man, they were beautiful!